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New England Burns Jet Fuel To Keep Lights On

timothy posted about 8 months ago | from the molasses-burns-well-too dept.

United States 230

First time accepted submitter inqrorken writes "During the recent cold snap, New England utilities turned to an unconventional fuel: jet fuel. Due to high demand for heating, natural gas supplies dropped and prices skyrocketed to $140/mmBtu and prompting the Mid-Atlantic RTO to call on demand response in the region. With 50% of installed generation capacity natural-gas fired, one utility took the step of running its jet fuel-based turbines for a record 15 hours."

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5th dimension; let the sunshine.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068409)

meanwhile, our 'weather' report; http://www.globalresearch.ca/weather-warfare-beware-the-us-military-s-experiments-with-climatic-warfare/7561

Re:5th dimension; let the sunshine.... (3, Funny)

novium (1680776) | about 8 months ago | (#46068663)

Well, they should get off their fannies and do something about this whole ridiculously resilient ridge that's keeping it from raining at all this winter in California (and is possibly related to the arctic conditions elsewhere...?) Damn it, you just can't trust the military industrial complex to do ANYTHING right. Where are the supervillains when you need 'em?

Re:5th dimension; let the sunshine.... (2)

JWSmythe (446288) | about 8 months ago | (#46068695)

I see your tinfoil hat is in proper working order.

Jet Fuel? (4, Insightful)

sokoban (142301) | about 8 months ago | (#46068421)

You mean, Kerosene? I guess Jet Fuel sounds cooler though.

Re:Jet Fuel? (1)

ThatsMyNick (2004126) | about 8 months ago | (#46068497)

No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel.

Re:Jet Fuel? (5, Informative)

crmanriq (63162) | about 8 months ago | (#46068557)

From Wikipedia (ya, I know...) on "Jet Fuel"

"Jet fuel is a clear to straw-colored fuel, based on either an unleaded kerosene (Jet A-1), or a naphtha-kerosene blend (Jet B). It is similar to diesel fuel, and can be used in either compression ignition engines or turbine engines. .... if it fails the purity and other quality tests for use on jet aircraft, it is sold to other ground-based users with less demanding requirements, like railroad engines."

So still not much of an event, other than to say "ooh, wow. Jet Fuel."

Re:Jet Fuel? (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46068783)

You might be tempted to believe this was just the usual "Headline Hype" on the part of Forbes.

However, in this case it was an appropriate use of the term since the units fired up were in fact combustion turbines, (jet engines turning turbines), also used on many Navy ships.

As a consequence, the grid operators have resorted to some rather unusual steps. Energy Choice Matters reported today that ISO-New England asked Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH – a subsidiary of NorthEast Utilities) to operate its entire generation fleet this week to help keep the lights on. This included firing up several infrequently-deployed combustion turbines which ran on jet fuel.

These are usually used as a source of last resort. They are usually avoided even for peaking demand. They are loud, suck fuel like crazy.
They exist for precisely this type of emergency, fuel shortage, scheduled down time of gas fired plants, or any grid failure.

In Alaska where I lived for 30 years, you saw exhaust from the turbines, you knew your next electric bill was going to hurt, because hydro and gas plants were down. You also knew that the LAST backup system was in use, so you stoked up the wood stove and turned off all unnecessary electrical load.

Re:Jet Fuel? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068925)

suck fuel like crazy

That's not even an understatement. At my utility we have three such units which would only be run on emergency, and we have fairly reasonable storage tanks on site, but once they start running it's only a matter of time before they run out, and tanker trucks can't unload fuel as fast as these things burn it.

Re:Jet Fuel? (2)

OneAhead (1495535) | about 8 months ago | (#46069267)

It would somewhat surprise me if these large terrestrial/naval turbines had the same stringent purity requirements as their lightweight high-performance counterparts used in aviation. Probably GP is right and these things run on kerosene that doesn't quite meet the standards for being labeled "Jet-A". Which doesn't mean they're fuel-efficient or cheap to operate... burning metric tons of kerosene in large turbine engines won't make for cheap electricity, regardless of its grade.

Re:Jet Fuel? (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46069615)

They probably are using home heating oil. Jet engines can run on just about anything that burns. What you do not want is too much soot or any abrasive material in the fuel.

Re:Jet Fuel? (2)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 9 months ago | (#46069593)

Actually a lot of peaking plants now are natural gas fired turbines. Natural Gas is a lot cheaper than jet fuel.

Re:Jet Fuel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069813)

Don't you have fixed pricing with your utility company?
Or can they just randomly increase the price whenever they want?

Re:Jet Fuel? (2)

Pharmboy (216950) | about 9 months ago | (#46069969)

I believe utilities have fixed rates, but also charge fuel surcharges, for times when fuel prices go up or down. Even carriers such as UPS, Fedex an long haul truckers do this. Right now, our trucking prices are based on a percentage discount against normal rates, PLUS fuel surcharge, around 22% right now. Power companies do the same. Of course, this varies from state to state.

Re:Jet Fuel? (1)

KonoWatakushi (910213) | about 9 months ago | (#46070077)

These are usually used as a source of last resort. They are usually avoided even for peaking demand. They are loud, suck fuel like crazy.
They exist for precisely this type of emergency, fuel shortage, scheduled down time of gas fired plants, or any grid failure.

That may have been the case once, but combustion turbines are now the preferred complement to highly variable wind, as they spin up fast. Ironically, this "green" solution uses considerably more fuel than combined cycle gas turbines alone to produce the same amount of energy. (30% efficiency for 70% of the time while wind produces no energy, versus 60% efficiency 100% of the time with CCGTs alone.)

Re:Jet Fuel? (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068655)

No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel.

Not exactly. While Jet B is a 70/30 blend, The more widely used Jet A/A-1 fuels are kerosene.

Re:Jet Fuel? (5, Informative)

rotorbudd (1242864) | about 8 months ago | (#46069011)

"No, they mean kerosene-gasoline blend, more commonly knows as jet fuel."

Jet fuel has no gasoline in it.
In fact most turbine aircraft engines are limited to just a few hours of operation with any amount of gasoline mixed into the fuel.
After that you you get to overhaul the hot-end with the added bonus of tossing some very expensive turbine wheels of blades away

Re:Jet Fuel? (1)

Adult film producer (866485) | about 8 months ago | (#46068591)

It would be even cooler if the headline was about burning napalm :)

Re:Jet Fuel? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068597)

Except that they add a few additives to it when its actually 'Jet Fuel'. Eg: they don't recommend burning 'Jet Fuel' in a kerosene heater because the additives make it stink (a bit more). When you run straight kerosene in Jet Aircraft, it doesn't burn quite as nicely (I've seen Russian MiG 29's burning straight kerosene, and they smoke a bit when spooling up and taxiing on the runway). I also assume they weren't burning JP4 (but I also assume that the locals don't have SR-71 Blackbirds laying about). I'm always surprised by people who yap that 'surely jet engines must be running something like super-ultra #1 aviation gasoline', but I then just assume that they have no idea how jet engines work. I *had* to learn when I got an AD in Electronics Engineering, and along with it took one class in Avionics (just the cockpit and E&E pit of a Lockheed F104 Starfighter). They insisted we had a good general knowledge of engines, flight controls etc. along with knowing the intricacies of the radar, direction finding, pitot static tube sensors, etc.

SR-71 = JP8 (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068647)

SR-71 = JP8

Re:SR-71 = JP8 (4, Interesting)

stjobe (78285) | about 8 months ago | (#46069003)

SR-71 = JP8

No, the Pratt & Whitney J58 [wikipedia.org] engines of the SR-71 [wikipedia.org] ran on JP7 [wikipedia.org] , a fuel specially made for those engines and that aircraft.

What is jet fuel (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068909)

With the exception of "wierd" jet fuels, Jet Fule (Jet-A, JP-8, whatever you call normal jet fuel in your country) is a "wide cut" kerosene. That means that it's got a larger range of molecular weights than kerosene or diesel fuel. Many jet fuel blends also have added anti-fungal and ice-inhibiting agents. The generators are almost certainly jet fuel, not a narrow cut kerosene, since it's cheaper, and for a turbine (particularly a large, fixed installation) the properties of diesel fuel aren't helpful.

Re:Jet Fuel? (2)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 9 months ago | (#46069431)

Back when I was in the Navy in '72, we often used small quantities of jet fuel, known as "JP5," as a paint thinner. (I'm talking about 1 cup or less, mostly used to clean brushes.) I was told at the time that it was basically kerosene. Now, however, I'm wondering if it had some special additives to help it work jet engines, especially in the jet turbines that helicopters use.

Re: Jet Fuel? (3, Interesting)

Turboglh (816701) | about 9 months ago | (#46069983)

I overhaul the Pratt & Whitney units used by a lot of utilities, and their use in high demand situations isn't uncommon, that's why they're installed.

Also, the choice of fuel on older units is predominately liquid fuel (jet a), with a mix of dual fuel (usually started on liquid and switched to gas for running) and straight gas.

So, unless you have a dual fuel setup on your units, you're stuck running whatever fuel you always use and you have no choice in switching based on the fluctuations in fuel costs.

What the heck is RTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068435)

Maybe the editors could edit?

Re:What the heck is RTO? (3, Funny)

lxs (131946) | about 8 months ago | (#46068469)

Sheesh! A quick Google search tells us that iRTO is the Really Terrible Orchestra [thereallyt...hestra.com] .

Re:What the heck is RTO? (1)

daremonai (859175) | about 8 months ago | (#46069275)

Their rendition of "Yellow Submarine" [thereallyt...hestra.com] has changed my life. Not for the better, mind you.

Re:What the heck is RTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069805)

Their rendition of "Yellow Submarine" [thereallyt...hestra.com] has changed my life. Not for the better, mind you.

Looks like Slashdot has a new theme song.

Re:What the heck is RTO? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069993)

Really tremendous orgasm.

Re: What the heck is RTO? (5, Informative)

Orne (144925) | about 8 months ago | (#46068755)

Regional Transsmission Organization. After the deregulation of the bulk electric system, these companies are given the responsibility of monitoring high voltage transmission reliability. They commonly are also Independent Service Organizations, which operate regional wholesale electric markets.

Invisible Hand (5, Interesting)

Mateorabi (108522) | about 8 months ago | (#46068441)

So this wasn't an equipment failure requiring a backup, but just market price fluctuation: The cost of natural gas per Watt generated went above the cost per Watt of the fuel for the backup generators, due to the high demand for natural gas as demand rose as temperatures fell. Sounds like Econ 101.

1. Why didn't the wholesale electric prices rise in tandem with the gas price to keep generation economical? Capped by fixed residential rates?

2. Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?

Re:Invisible Hand (5, Informative)

khallow (566160) | about 8 months ago | (#46068565)

2. Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?

I don't know. But this was allegedly predicted [northeastgas.org] by analysts.

A central challenge is that - especially in New England - most power generators do not contract for firm gas pipeline capacity under their unilateral control and instead rely on "if and as available" gas non-firm capacity, or, in some cases, capacity held by third parties. Pipeline capacity has routinely been added to meet the needs of gas customers who desire firm service and are willing to execute firm contracts for such service.

The majority of gas-fired power generators in New England opt for non-firm gas transportation services. The generators have long observed that the electric market does not provide the proper incentives to encourage them to contract for firm transportation. NGA has encouraged the development of solutions to this power market dilemma, which causes uncertainty for the entire regional energy market.

So apparently, pipeline capacity is built based on "firm capacity" contracts, but the peaking load generators don't have the incentives to purchase those contracts.

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Interesting)

rmdingler (1955220) | about 8 months ago | (#46068629)

FTA: Natural gas is classified as a 'just in time' fuel delivery system.

This anomaly was preceded by huge increases in the underlying natural gas spot market price, in perfect timing with the additional cold bestowed on the region by Polar Vortex storms.

Surely, speculators didn't drive up the price of a commodity right before the storm hit?

Re:Invisible Hand (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 8 months ago | (#46068767)

Yes. More natural gas burned on a winter. Who could tell. Maybe its a FAIL swan event.

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 8 months ago | (#46068793)

Surely, speculators didn't drive up the price of a commodity right before the storm hit?

Yes, it would have been much better for DEMAND to drive up prices right after the storm hit so that consumers would be unable to see the price rise coming and reduce their reliance on natural gas and suppliers would be unable to increase production to meet (and profit from) the increased demand (perhaps by rerouting from other areas which would not need the natural gas as desperately). Yes, that would be much better. ?s

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Insightful)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46068905)

Not to mention that storing enough gas on site to run a generation facility is pretty much impossible and dangerous.

Even spec prices don't do you any good unless you have a direct pipeline to the source. Most places are on the large pipe network, and there is no way you can blindly pump gas in form your spec source and expect it to arrive ONLY at the those sites with spec contracts.

Its easier to just add a fuel surcharge to the end user's electric bill. Which is exactly what happens in most places.

Re:Invisible Hand (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 8 months ago | (#46068699)

I know a case where the pipeline pumping station for one of the largest gas fired generators in northern California staved money buy getting a deal on curtailable power (like letting the utility shut down your AC during brownouts).

PG&E are 'super geniuses'.

Re:Invisible Hand (1)

icebike (68054) | about 8 months ago | (#46068861)

Of course with a pipeline full of gas, they could fire up their own generators, no?

The gas probably just wasn't there. (4, Informative)

zippthorne (748122) | about 8 months ago | (#46068599)

NE is violently opposed to building any energy infrastructure.

For instance the Weaver's Cove LNG terminal proposal in Fall River, MA was ultimately shot down because regulators believed there wasn't enough demand for natural gas in NE, despite the region having one of the highest prices for natural gas in the country. Apparently price is not an indicator of demand.

Fall River is also in the process of shutting down a coal power plant (which the local residents are apparently dancing with glee over, despite the two huge cooling towers they made them build recently) , which is presumed to be replaced by natural gas capacity elsewhere in the region.

Re:The gas probably just wasn't there. (3, Informative)

Mashiki (184564) | about 8 months ago | (#46068931)

NE is violently opposed to building any energy infrastructure.

Of course they are, they buy it all from Canada for less than what we pay for it at home. And about half the time the NE-US buys it at us from a loss on our side, you really don't *need* to build new power plants or generators---unless you want to supply on your own side. As it stands, you're getting a hell of a deal from us.

Re:The gas probably just wasn't there. (1)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 8 months ago | (#46069299)

And we just gave you an additional 10% discount by lowering the CAD/USD exchange ratio to 0.9.... would you say "no" to such deal....???

Re:Invisible Hand (1, Interesting)

NapalmV (1934294) | about 8 months ago | (#46068671)

This ain't any "Econ 101" "supply & demand" thing. There's plenty of natural gas around to the extent that it just get wasted:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/breakthrough/gas-flaring-on-the-rise-despite-environmental-and-health-concerns/article14088342/

The "invisible hand" you're mentioning is just the natural resources trading firms that saw an opportunity to increase their markup for the supplementary quantities. If you want to bring it to "econ 101" then it would be a failure of the markets due to insufficient competition in the trading sector. Anyway if anyone here still believes in "econ 101" fairy tales I would recommend reading Steve Keen's "Debunking Economics".

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Insightful)

foobar bazbot (3352433) | about 9 months ago | (#46069503)

This ain't any "Econ 101" "supply & demand" thing. There's plenty of natural gas around to the extent that it just get wasted:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com... [theglobeandmail.com]

Natural gas? Cheap and abundant.
Natural gas in pipelines flowing to New England power plants? Not so much.

If you don't understand how that would make a difference, it's likely you never took this Econ 101 you speak of. (That, or perhaps you think pipelines work by magic, and any mass flow rate through any size pipe is feasible from both engineering and economic perspectives? To put it in Ted Stevens-like terms, pipelines are like the internet, not like a truck.)

Not to say the natural gas market in New England is, or bears particularly close resemblance to, the elegant, efficient resource-allocation method modeled and taught in Econ 101, but your attempt to use the practice of gas flaring as evidence that there wasn't a genuine scarcity of usable natural gas in a certain place and time discredits you by revealing a serious failure in competence and/or honesty. (I wouldn't claim to know which.)

Re:Invisible Hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068679)

It had nothing to do with gas prices.

The extremely cold polar vortex caused a spike in electricity demand, which the power companies met with their standby generators. Gas turbines (basically jet engines) are small, can be brought online quickly, and generate a lot of power. Everything worked as designed. There is really nothing to this story.

Re:Invisible Hand (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068691)

1) They did. It is precisely because the generation was economical (i.e., the wholesale prices supported their dispatch costs) that they ran the peaking units for so long. You may pay a fixed rate as a residential customer, but the company that had your supply contract paid through the nose ;-)

2) They do. For every winner there's a loser -- it just depends on which side of the transaction you're on.

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Insightful)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46068733)

Why didn't the generators use the derivatives market to hedge against spikes in gas prices so they'd be able to keep buying as demand/price rose?

Well, they might very well have had hedges to allow them to buy at normal prices, but then they're left with a choice - take that super-expensive gas that they can buy and burn it, or turn around and sell it to somebody else at market price and burn something else. If they can get more selling the gas than it would take to fuel their generators with jet fuel, then they're going to sell the gas and buy jet fuel.

Just because they have the option to burn gas doesn't necessarily compel them to do so...

Re:Invisible Hand (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46068743)

Just because they have the option to burn gas doesn't necessarily compel them to do so...

Sorry - one other thing. This isn't a bad thing at all. If some utility has the right pipelines so that they can burn either gas or jet fuel, and the former is in super-high demand and the latter isn't, then it is actually good for the public that they burn the jet fuel and alleviate the shortage of jet fuel. That keeps prices on gas lower for homeowners, who can't just use their trusty oil pipeline to operate their jet fuel home heating unit.

Re:Invisible Hand (4, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about 8 months ago | (#46068817)

Ah, the "markets will fix everything" (but didn't read the linked article) types.

Wholesale electric prices did rise, to about $950/MWH, for about half an hour around 5 AM EST this morning. That didn't last long. It's now around $150/MWH. The price goes up and down by a factor of 3 or so in a normal 24 hour cycle.

There's hedging going on in power, natural gas, and weather. But it doesn't affect the amount of generating capacity online on an hour by hour basis.

Read PJM 101 [pjm.com] to understand how this works. Electric power in the PJM region is normally driven entirely by markets. However, PJM grid control in Valley Forge, PA can order "non-market actions" to keep power on, and generating companies (which are not all utilities) are obligated by their contracts with PJM to obey those instructions or pay huge penalties. PJM doesn't do this often. Yesterday and the day before, though, were bad days. Both days, there were Max Emergency Generation alerts . The longest was from 19:19 EST on Thursday to 08:45 Friday. That's because some generating capacity was down, and peaking plants had to be used to make up capacity. That's part of what peaking plants are for.

Wind power didn't help. Wind power was at a low when power was most needed. Even with wind farms spread over many states, wind power in the PJM area goes up and down over a 4x range.

(Sometimes power is really cheap. The price can even go negative. Load varies over about a 3x range during a normal day, and around 2-5 AM, it's at minimum. All the plants that burn fuel shut down first. Much of PJM's power comes from Ontario Hydro, and when they have too much water in their reservoirs, they have to let some out through their generators. So they continue to produce power even if the price they're being paid briefly goes below 0. Adjusting the output of nuclear plants is slow, and they'll also sometimes generate even if it costs them. The wind farms usually prefer to shut down rather than pay, and so, late at night, sometimes the giant wind turbines feather their props and slow to a stop.)

Re:Invisible Hand (1)

stomv (80392) | about 9 months ago | (#46070099)

1. They did. The bulk power market in New England, managed by ISONE, uses locational marginal prices. They also use economic dispatch, subject to voltage control, transmission capacity, and other reliability issues. The LMPs were enormous during the cold snap. And, while the LMPs were high, it won't be reflected (much) in the electric bill because the power companies (the folks you send a monthly check to) have long term fixed rate contracts with generators, so they're not paying the spot price.

2. Gas generators are on pipelines. The pipeline owners sell two kinds of delivery -- firm and non-firm. The local gas company buys firm, because they have to be sure that even on the super cold days, they can get enough gas to their customers for heating. The generators, they're non-firm. They pay a lower rate, but get no guarantee. It's better for them, because the added cost of firm is so high that the system is better off burning jet fuel once in a while than building a pipeline big enough for the coldest snap, which would be wildly underutilized the rest of the year. As for derivatives market -- you have to actually be able to deliver the physical product. This isn't a Wall Street game, this is an actual commodity. Delivered. As I wrote above, the generators don't pay for firm, so they don't get delivery. It's got nothing to do with the price, it has everything to do with physically moving the gas itself.

Importance in diversity of energy sources (4, Interesting)

acidradio (659704) | about 8 months ago | (#46068519)

In recent years there has been a movement to quickly shutter "old" power plants that run on fuel sources like coal, oil and other less environmentally friendly fuels and totally replace them with natural gas plants. Natural gas has come way down in price also which helps force that along. But what happens when supplies of natural gas either radically go up in price or become limited due to some other distribution problem? It's a good thing that they had these peaking units ready at the standby along with a sufficient amount of fuel.

Where I live (Minneapolis) a number of the local coal power plants have been completely converted to natural gas. There is still one large coal-fired plant though north of town (Xcel Energy's Sherco) that is not viable to convert to natural gas at this point and still runs on coal. Sherco was the quintessential baseload coal fired power plant cranking out 2400MW through three units. It has now be relegated to being a peaking unit for the most part, turned up and down as necessary. Recently one of the three turbines violently shattered, had to be rebuilt and was offline for many months. Sherco is the kind of power plant that was meant to be fired up and ran continually for a couple of years without downtime and without significant variation in the throttling/output. I can only speculate but I don't think that treating it like a peaking plant and constantly varying the output is good for it... and a number of other similar power plants around the country.

Re:Importance in diversity of energy sources (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 8 months ago | (#46068753)

That is one of the problems with market-based solutions. The CEOs get bonuses based on this quarter's profits, and they don't have to pay them back when the company tanks next quarter. This leads to a lot of short-sighted risk-taking. If you're the company running on a more expensive fuel for diversification then you get clobbered in the market while your competitors burn gas. Sure, you'll do better if gas prices spike, but chances are that you'll be bankrupt before that happens, or even if gas prices spike your competitors will just beg for a bailout since, gee, who could have seen that coming?

This is why drug companies don't make new antibiotics. 99% of sick people don't need new antibiotics, so there is no incentive to make them. Of course, the 1% who do need them really need them, and one day if some superbug comes along and wipes out 20% of the population we'll look really stupid for not spending a few hundred million on a new antibiotic, but nobody is going to lynch the current congressmen who aren't appropriating money for one...

Re:Importance in diversity of energy sources (3, Insightful)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 8 months ago | (#46068831)

This is not a problem with market-based solutions. It is a problem with a certain segment of our politicians waging a "war on coal". As to "why drug companies don't make new antibiotics", well that would be an interesting theory, if it were true that they do not actually do so. The main reason that it appears that drug companies don't make new antibiotics is because all of the "easy" ones have already been developed.

Re:Importance in diversity of energy sources (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 9 months ago | (#46069815)

As to "why drug companies don't make new antibiotics", well that would be an interesting theory, if it were true that they do not actually do so. The main reason that it appears that drug companies don't make new antibiotics is because all of the "easy" ones have already been developed.

There have been a couple of new antibiotics over the last 20 years, but if you look at them almost none of them make much money. An "easy" drug costs about as much to develop as a hard one - most of the costs are in the clinical trials and you need to bribe (er, compensate) the doctors to sign up subjects, otherwise you don't get approval to market the drug.

It isn't like erectile dysfunction drugs are super-easy to develop - it is just far more lucrative to do so.

What I'm saying here is hardly controversial in any case - just about any article/documentary/etc covering the rise of drug-resistant bacteria strains mentions these factors.

As far as the "war on coal" goes - I'm all for taxing coal production to account for the externalities. However, I think the general rise of market-based energy production has led to a power grid that is far less robust than it has been in the past. It used to be that utilities could gouge the public as long as they kept the lights on. Now the system operates a lot more like the stock market - where usually things work fine but every once in a while you have a 2008.

Re:Importance in diversity of energy sources (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068869)

I think people sometimes underestimate how awful coal power is.

Sherco was the quintessential baseload coal fired power plant cranking out 2400MW through three units.

Assuming the 2400MW was running continuously, that amounts to 21TWh per year. According to this article [thelancet.com] (free copy here [bigthunderwindpower.ca] ), the air pollution produced by 21TWh of coal power generation in a developed country is estimated to cause about 500 deaths and almost 5000 serious illnesses. Using the estimate from another article [wiley.com] (free copy here [gwu.edu] ), the externalities due to air pollution from 21TWh of coal power generation are about $2 billion, excluding costs associated with climate change.

In other words... (4, Informative)

MrLogic17 (233498) | about 8 months ago | (#46068523)

During peak load, the utility ran peaker plants. This isn't unusual.

Now, running a high cost peaker for 15 hours, that's noteworthy.

Re:In other words... (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | about 8 months ago | (#46068593)

Is it? Citation needed. What's a "normal" peak burn or set of burns?

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068659)

Citation needed

What the fuck is that? You live on Wikipedia? Have a butt-load of Barnstars, do you? Jesus Christ.

Re:In other words... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46070089)

It's a Cessna business jet. I need one, too.

http://www.cessna.com/citation

Re:In other words... (1)

inqrorken (3513049) | about 8 months ago | (#46068867)

It depends on the type of peak.

The average, daily peak lasts from around 10 AM to about 5 PM. This is generally from the day-to-day activities from commercial businesses. This kind of peak is routine, expected, and can generally be covered by inexpensive forms of generation.

Extreme, hot-weather peaks generally max out around 4 - 5 PM, though on such days the total load exceeds normal peak by solar noon. The peak is this late in the day because (1) commercial businesses are still open, (2) workers have begun to arrive home and turn on lights, TVs, the AC unit, etc., and (3) the solar energy received during the day is making a very large contribution to the AC cooling requirement (search for "radiant time series." The idea here is that walls store the Sun's energy, and release it later.)

These extreme peaks happen rarely, and the absolute worst lasts for 1 - 3 hours. This is when your jet-fuel burning peakers would come online - they would sit on standby 365 days out of the year, and maybe generate for five hours total.

For the daily peak, in a more diverse area, the natural gas peakers would come on throughout the small daily peak. Rarely would they be on for more than a few hours / day.

15 hours for an extremely expensive fuel type truly is rare.

Re:In other words... (1)

techno-vampire (666512) | about 9 months ago | (#46069459)

There's another reason that hot-weather peaks max out when they do: Normally, the temperature reaches its daily max somewhere around 3 PM, several hours after solar noon.

Re:In other words... (1)

mendax (114116) | about 8 months ago | (#46068621)

During peak load, the utility ran peaker plants. This isn't unusual.

Exactly, many utilities have peaker plants for this purpose and they use something like jet engines to run generators. This is not exactly news. The utility faced a massive crunch due to the cold and they used Plan B.

Not unusual in the least. (1)

iroll (717924) | about 8 months ago | (#46068595)

I wonder if "First time accepted submitter inqrorken" comes from a warm climate; I remember that the facilities managers at a national park near where I lived would price out fuel oil, diesel, and Jet-A for oil-burning home heat in the employee housing every hear. The prices fluctuate based on a lot of factors, including refinery over-runs, gluts and shortages based on transport industries, etc., so while it was unlikely, it wasn't unheard of for Jet-A to be the cheapest option.

Re:Not unusual in the least. (2)

inqrorken (3513049) | about 8 months ago | (#46068999)

Actually, the Northeast is home. While shale gas has brought a ton of jobs to the region, and has helped to limit energy costs (just look at European residential electric rates!) we're using it in a blundering fashion. The point here is that we can't just switch everything over to the current wonderfuel - there are other articles, from the polar vortex earlier this year, that report that the Northeast's gas pipeline capacity was maxed out. As ever, we've got to be smart.

Re:Not unusual in the least. (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 9 months ago | (#46069923)

Actually, the Northeast is home. While shale gas has brought a ton of jobs to the region

Living in the fatted area, "a ton of jobs" is industry codswaddle. The jobs are mostly subcontractor type jobs, and as soon as they are done in your area, those jobs disappear. It's only reasonable, you need a fair number of people to drill the wells and bring them online. After that? almost no one. In my area, it was about 2 years. There have been some sad stories about idiots who thought they were long lasting jobs. I recall one form a restaraunt owner who was shocked. She saw dollar signs, then had to lay off most of her staff. The field workers stopped coming in when they left. A friend took a job in th egas fields, then bought a house, despite my pleas that he not. He lost his job before hte first payment was due.

So yes, you can take the job if you absolutely need to, but never fool yourself that it is not very, very short term.

I'm feeling natural gas for 100 years... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 8 months ago | (#46068625)

And too cheap to meter! Oh, and there's trillions of barrels of oil RIGHT HERE IN THE USA, and, and .... cold fusion and biofuels!

Or not.

Re:I'm feeling natural gas for 100 years... (1)

rrohbeck (944847) | about 8 months ago | (#46068717)

Your forgot Thorium and LENR. Me, I prefer burning unicorns. They only emit rainbows.

That's Clever (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | about 8 months ago | (#46068627)

That's clever, they've saved the budget and jet fuel is a good clean burn when used with turbines. That's why they use it in jet's!

Ironic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068637)

We only capture half of the natural gas produced in this country and worse around the world.

Re:Ironic (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 8 months ago | (#46068713)

the politicians HATE having that long hose with the facemask attached to their head all the time...they only let us capture the gas while they sleep, so we still have to get some from drilling into the ground.

iced... (2, Interesting)

harvey the nerd (582806) | about 8 months ago | (#46068701)

Sounds like an excuse to bust out the extraordinarily high price cap. First shut down the coal plants, then free up prices. Newly minted fortunes. Thanks, Obama the careless.

Re:iced... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068907)

Man, that Obama sure is fast. He has single handedly started and lost all USA wars, invented and raised taxes, personally hassled every american and the other not americans face-to-face, fired all jobless people personally, taken all those jobs abroad, lowered the dollar value, spied on everyone, crashed US economics and taken all those american loans, spanked you when you were a kid, let all those mexicans in usa, lost the race to space, faked the moon landing, killed Kenedy and all kinds of other stuff all by himself.

Re:iced... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46069251)

You forgot to mention he is also causing the rich insurance companies to wonder if their profits will be steadily inclining this year, or not. He's also the only president who's been able to pass a health care law without congress voting to pass it, bypassing the system of checks and balances.

Re:iced... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069779)

Sounds like an excuse to bust out the extraordinarily high price cap. First shut down the coal plants, then free up prices. Newly minted fortunes. Thanks, Obama the careless.

We should relocate the enitre Northeast and mid-West populations to Australia during our winter -- they have plenty of room in their northwest.

Jet Fuel =Kerosene (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068729)

Jet fuel is Kerosene or a Naphtha-kerosene blend and its a byproduct of making more refined fuels such as gasoline and diesel there is nothing special going on here just slash-dot sensationalism

^Wlights electric heaters (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068741)

I suspect this peaks demand was not due to electric lights but rather to electric heaters which would have been in high demand due to the cold weather. Dark is normal for New England at this time of year. It has been a colder for longer this year.

They should use the jet fuel (2)

Davo Batty (2855025) | about 8 months ago | (#46068771)

to jet somewhere warmer like sunny OZ. http://www.weather.com.au/ [weather.com.au]

Vermont Yankee Too Expensive (1)

grumling (94709) | about 8 months ago | (#46068803)

I wonder what will happen next year, after Vermont Yankee is shut down and the grid loses 2 GW of base load?

Also, anyone have any statistics on wind production over the same period?

Re:Vermont Yankee Too Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068943)

i believe VY has been shut down for a while, i know they were trying for license renewal, but were rebuffed.on a side note, i have actually been inside that reactor vessel, on a field trip to the plant during construction.jesus, i feel old!

Re:Vermont Yankee Too Expensive (1)

grumling (94709) | about 8 months ago | (#46069111)

It is still running, scheduled for shutdown 4th qtr 2014:

http://www.safecleanreliable.c... [safecleanreliable.com]

Also, a correction: the 2GW of energy produced is heat from the reactor. Actual electricity produced is 650MW or so. Still 35% of the electrical production in the state, so nothing to sneeze at.

when airports close, Jet-A gets cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068837)

Partly, too, with miserable weather causing cancellation of flights, the demand for Jet-A drops off, so the millions of gallons of Jet-A at the local airport become worth more as power plant fuel.
A 747 when fully loaded holds 50,000 gallons (about 300, 000 lbs.. 1/3-1/2 the take off weight). A major international airport with a couple or 300 hundred departures a day is going to go through millions of gallons/day. At LAX, there are pipelines from the nearby Chevron El Segundo and ExxonMobile Torrance/Wilmington refineries.

Sweater or go down to Florida (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068913)

I hate headlines like this. Jet fuel and high heating prices? Why doesn't anybody put on a sweater any more? I live in the inland PNW where it stays below freezing for several months each year, and my heating bill is around $20 per month....

If you can't handle the cold, shut up and move down to Florida or southern California where you belong.

Re:Sweater or go down to Florida (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46070123)

Cause moving is expensive, and jobs aren't guaranteed?

New England you say? Well let me chime in! (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46068915)

I live in Maine. Originally for the south midwest. VERY south midwest. That said, from what I've seen up here, in Maine, New Hampshire, Mass. there's so much waste in heating going on that with proper backing of several billion and a 10 year plan, I could double that money redoing select pre-40's buildings into modern energy efficient levels.

Where I live, its costing $400-500 a month right now in heating oil. That will likely go through March, somewhat into April. Getting on a yearly contract for heating oil, is the preferred method, since you're locked into a per gallon price. I won't be hear that long, so not happening. Not complaining, just my situation.... So, it's month to month on oil, or whever we need it. There is natural gas here, which the stove runs off of. That's it though. That's the ONLY use for natural gas where I live. In the south, nat. gas is used for stove, and water. Yes! My hot water runs off fuel oil! Absolutely absurd! Looking around, it would be VERY trivial to throw in a nat. gas water heater and integrate the piping for hot water if you wanted to switch between the two.

Let's forgoe that idea for a moment though. Let's look at inline electric water heaters. Energy efficient, on demand. VERY good idea, IMO. This building is from the 20s or 30s. Updated to modern standards? Yea right. The wiring looks to date back to some time between the 40s to 50's. Possibly earlier. There are 5 circuits for the 3 bedroom 1200ft apartment where I live. Only 1 outlet is grounded in the entire apartment, and that's for the regrigerator. So, can we put an inline water heater in? NOPE! No GFCI plugs anywhere. Fixing the hot water, requires fixing the electric.

It isn't even about keeping the lights on where I am though. It's ALL about heating. In my apartment, there's MAYBE 1 or 2 lights on at any given time. Seldom more than that ever. The main power draw is 3-4 computers, and a refrigerator. That's it.

Heating is all non-electric here. And that's the problem! They gone from heating using, or not using in my case, electric from fuel oil. Did they bother to redo any insulation? HIGHLY doubtful. Where I live, the majority of people rent. The property owners? Some blue collar worker looking to make a few dollars on a 2nd building. Upgrades? This apartment was lucky enough to get double paned windows this past winter. Wow. That must have been a hellacious oil bill before they got put in.

The real problem here, is you have all these old buildings from that early 20th, that haven't been looked at from an energy footprint standpoint. Millions of buildings! Here's the kicker. They'll likely be used for at least another 30 years. Probably longer. What are the odds that someones going to do a cost benefit in modernizing their 2nd house, when it would put them further in debt for the remainder of their lives. They won't. What does it say about the US in general, when you have millions of very energy efficient homes, and no one doing cost benefit and offering up incentives? Well, if they are offering up incentives, I sure haven't seen or heard anything about it.

Here's the choice as I see it: Either you improve a whole bunch of homes that are sorely out of date from a modern energy efficiency position, and evaluate fuel oil vs. electrical for heating and hot water needs in New England, or you do nothing. In the event you do nothing, more and more of your money overall, goes to oil and the coal plants, that could have gone to updating infrastructure that would otherwise continue to be stagnant. My bet? No change. People apparently don't like change and improving things in this country. I do, and I tell as many people about it as possible. Why? Cause why not? No one else seems to want to discuss it.

Re:New England you say? Well let me chime in! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46069087)

I can't believe anybody would pay $500 per month for heating an apartment. How warm are you keeping your apartment? Seriously? Does it not bother you that you are figuratively burning your cash?

I live in a 1910s house with no insulation in the inland PNW where it stays below freezing for several months per year. My heating bill is only around $20 per month. I keep the thermostat turned way down and wear a sweater.

Re:New England you say? Well let me chime in! (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#46069127)

"Where I live, its costing $400-500 a month right now in heating oil"
yet people who own homes are too damn cheap to pay a company $2000 to upgrade your insulation in the home and attic.

If you own your home and you pay $500 a month to heat your 1929 uninsulated home, you have no right to complain about your heating bill.

I bought my home and that summer paid for blown in insulation to all walls and the attic, I then went around and measured each window and ordered 1 window a month and replaced them myself.

I live in mid michigan, my temperature is lower than what new england has seen and I currently have 4 feet of snow in my yard with 7 foot tall snow piles where we shoveled the driveway, the roads are the same. I just paid my Jan 2014 heating bill, keeping the house at 68-70 it was $69.00 adding R-30 worth of insulation to the attic, R18 to the walls and replacing the windows with the cheapest drop in replacements I can order one at a time from home depot.

If you are a home owner and dont improve your home, you are a horrible home owner. If you are a renter, well I suggest moving to a place that costs more per month and has a landlord that cares about the place and has it insulated and new windows.

Re:New England you say? Well let me chime in! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 months ago | (#46069193)

From his post, it looks like he's renting from some uneducated laborer. I'm also renting a house from an illiterate townie who doesn't care about the property, and his attitude is the same. Rent is dirt cheap, so I simply dress warm and turn down the heat to keep expenses low.

Re:New England you say? Well let me chime in! (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#46069443)

What is really need are tax incentives to move off all of these heat means and go to geo-thermal HVAC. For most of the lower 48, geo-thermal is truly the dirt cheap way to go. But it kills me that most of that heating oil is imported from Venezuela.

[OT] mmBtu? (4, Insightful)

multi io (640409) | about 8 months ago | (#46068927)

Due to high demand for heating, natural gas supplies dropped and prices skyrocketed to $140/mmBtu

Off-topic question: Do these people actually invent new units of energy for each application?

Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

A BTU is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 pound (0.454 kg) of liquid water by 1 F (0.56 C) at a constant pressure of one atmosphere.[1] As with calorie, several BTU definitions exist, which are based on different water temperatures and therefore vary by up to 0.5%.

The unit MBtu or mBtu was defined as one thousand BTU, presumably from the Roman numeral system where "M" or "m" stands for one thousand (1,000). This is easily confused with the SI mega (M) prefix, which multiplies by a factor of one million (1,000,000). To avoid confusion many companies and engineers use MMBtu or mmBtu to represent one million BTU.

Somebody must have thought really long and hard to come up with that stuff.

Re:[OT] mmBtu? (1)

inqrorken (3513049) | about 8 months ago | (#46069009)

Old habits die hard. Don't forget about other fun gas-related units, such as the hundred (standard) cubit feet, ccf.

Re:[OT] mmBtu? (1)

radarskiy (2874255) | about 8 months ago | (#46069131)

It's how we engineers keep our supply of labor artificially low.

Re:[OT] mmBtu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069893)

Lucky you; universities keep it artificially high.

Re:[OT] mmBtu? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#46069867)

BTU has a tangible connection to historical means of heating, much like the "ton" in air conditioning(12,000 BTU/hr, or the heat of fusion of a ton (2000lb) of ice/day). If you're doing hot water or steam heating in radiators, then knowing how much fuel it takes to heat the water up a certain amount has meaning. Knowing how much ice you need to order to keep your warehouse cool makes total sense.

Stoves and heaters are rated in BTU/hr, so working in BTU as the total supply makes sense. A human is about 8000 BTU/hr

You want weird units, look at things like "boiler HP" (heat of vaporization of 34.5 lbs of water/hr at 212 F), which relates to how much steam it takes to get one mechanical horsepower "Tests conducted in 1876 on a modern (for the time) steam engine determined that it took approximately 30 pounds of steam per hour to produce 1 horsepower (mechanical) of work. In 1889 the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) standardized the term “Boiler Horsepower” as being based on a conventional steam engine steam rate of 30 pounds of steam per hour (PPH) at 70-psig pressure and feedwater of 100 degrees F"

and that feeds into all sorts of rules of thumb like 10 square feet of heat transfer area per HP.

The other thing is that they tend to work in "energy" units, rather than mass or volume of the fuel, because that normalizes for the heating value. For instance your home gas bill is priced in "therms", 100k BTU (or 100 mBTU), and each month there's a correction factor for the heating value of natural gas to convert from the volume (in hundreds of cubic feet CCF) to therms, since the heating value changes quite a bit over the year (in the winter, they run a mix that is less propane and butane, because it will condense out in the pipelines) there's also CO2 and nitrogen as a contaminant

so working in megaBTU makes perfect sense.

Reporters have zero clue, News at 11 (1)

Lumpy (12016) | about 8 months ago | (#46069073)

Here is a secret. Jet Fuel is KEROSENE.

I can burn "Jet Fuel" in my cheap garage kerosene heater.

Honestly Journalism is getting worse and worse these days, it seems that the only thing you need to be a journalist is to dress like a hipster and not have any ability at all to do research or have any education about the subject.

Re:Reporters have zero clue, News at 11 (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#46069413)

shhh. The vast majority of /.'s did not know that either. Keep in mind that it is a secret.

Re:Reporters have zero clue, News at 11 (1)

couchslug (175151) | about 9 months ago | (#46069681)

Jet fuel is of course more abundant than plain kero, but it's also much more expensive due to additives and purity levels required for use as aviation fuel.

Folks who have access to free JP-8 drained from aircraft undergoing maintenance often run it in their diesel trucks as it's compatible with diesel engines.

Re:Reporters have zero clue, News at 11 (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 9 months ago | (#46069961)

Here is a secret. Jet Fuel is KEROSENE.

I can burn "Jet Fuel" in my cheap garage kerosene heater.

Honestly Journalism is getting worse and worse these days, it seems that the only thing you need to be a journalist is to dress like a hipster and not have any ability at all to do research or have any education about the subject.

Another thing I'm curious about. I would assume that these power companies store their fuel on site (this is an assumption, I do not know for sure). But if they do, the fuel must be cycled through, as it does not last forever as good grade fuel. This situation happens with emergency power for radio tower trsnmitter sites. They use a certain amount of fuel for regular tests, but they have to renew the fuel eventually. You do that by running the old fuel through thesystem in most cases.

Eco-terrorists! (1)

bobbuck (675253) | about 8 months ago | (#46069255)

Why do we let these eco-terrorists even live so far north where they have to burn up all the world's fuel? It's not like any of these people are actual lumberjacks who need to live there. They might as well be eating spotted owls on rye bread with mayo!

thorium reactors with EOS energy (1)

WindBourne (631190) | about 9 months ago | (#46069405)

Seriously, we need to move to thorium reactors for main systems, along with EOS energy for providing on-demand need.

Whatcha gonna do? (1, Flamebait)

reboot246 (623534) | about 9 months ago | (#46069499)

The coal-fired electric generating plants will eventually all be shut down (thanks, Obama!); nuclear is never going to be accepted (or done right); natural gas is going to go through the roof when most of it is being used to generate electricity; and oil is considered a nasty fuel. Solar and wind may be nice, but they're years away from being able to supply our energy needs.

You better hope the Earth is getting warmer because that's the only thing that will keep you from freezing your ass off.

Satisfied now? Are you going to enjoy living in the 13th Century? I'm laughing my ass off. Ye fools!!

Shiver in the dark (1)

Tailhook (98486) | about 9 months ago | (#46069861)

The whole area around New England and the state itself are virulently anti-energy. Vermont banned fracking even though they have no recoverable natural gas reserves; they did it just to make a headline. New England might have a deposit in the Hartford Basin, but we'll never know because just like its neighbors New England is also well on its way to banning recovery. New York has managed to inflict [zerohedge.com] record gas prices on itself this month.

So shiver in the dark as far as I'm concerned. Shut off your extravagant kerosene turbines and rely on those offshore windmills you hate so much. Next summer maybe you can dam up a few dozen more Canadian rivers and preclude this little drama next winter.

Deserve what they get (1)

amightywind (691887) | about 9 months ago | (#46069895)

Those clods deserve what they get. Maybe the green freaks will let the gas companies build some pipelines. What irony that NE is 200 miles from one of the great gas fields on the planet in the Marcellus Shale. Shiver on, fools.
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